U-Today stops data collection for diversity survey

The data collection for research into diversity and inclusion at Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences has been stopped with immediate effect. The reliability of the new data can no longer be guaranteed. Questionnaires can no longer be filled in.

The journalistic research into perceived diversity and inclusion at 19 colleges and universities across the country was terminated prematurely after a publication on GeenStijl. The website published an article last Thursday, ‘Non-Binary Pollfuck! Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences would like to measure your inclusivity' in which readers were invited to complete the diversity survey.

The article contained a link to the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences questionnaire. Links to the studies of the eighteen other participating institutions were also quickly shared in the comments under the article.

From the moment of publication on GeenStijl, it is highly likely that many questionnaires were filled in by people from outside the institutions. This makes the collected data unreliable and therefore unusable.

Research agency Newcom, which is carrying out the research on behalf of the Council of Editors-in-chief of Higher Education Media, has decided to stop collecting the data. That is because, even after five days, the call by GeenStijl to fill in the survey is still being answered. The research bureau can no longer guarantee the quality and reliability of the research, according to their spokesperson: ‘After some reflection, we can only advise to stop the data collection for the diversity survey immediately. For us, the quality and reliability of the data is paramount. Due to the developments of last week, we cannot be certain about the reliability of the data.’

The Council of Editors-in-chief of Higher Education Media supports this decision, says its chairman Ries Agterberg: ‘It is a shame that a publication by GeenStijl is torpedoing a careful and neutral investigation. The purpose of the survey was precisely to investigate the experiences and opinions of students and staff on this theme. To what extent do they support the diversity policy of universities and colleges? That's a legitimate question. It was not intended to impose any particular philosophy. By stopping the survey prematurely, we were deprived of the opportunity to bring these experiences to light.’

In consultation with Newcom, the questionnaires completed before the publication of GeenStijl will be processed and the questionnaires received after publication will be scanned for stories from the participating institutions. Agterberg: ‘We would like to thank all students and staff who took the trouble to fill in our questionnaire. All questionnaires are checked and the stories that students and staff have shared will be read and processed. Those stories are not lost.’

The survey is part of a large-scale collaboration of almost all independent media from universities and colleges in the Netherlands. The Council of Editors-in-chief of Higher Education Media received a subsidy for this from the Stimulation Fund for Journalism.

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